This piece also appeared on The Grit and Grace Project.
One of the things I’ve tried to establish early in in my parenting is my desire to raise responsible children who contribute to their community (be it their family, classroom, society, etc). In our culture, this can be difficult… they’re busy, they want to watch TV, or they’re used to being told “You’re too young to do that.” But I’ve got 9 things my kids can and should be doing to contribute to the housework load.
1. Help unload the dishwasher. My kids do their plastic dishes, their cups/bottles/all those parts, and all the silverware (not including sharp knives). I just ask whichever of them is around when I need to get it unloaded, and almost always, they’re eager to help.
2. Put away their laundry. This one is a big one. We often watch some TV before bedtime, and I set a timer for 4-5 minutes at a time, and we pause the TV, and everyone puts some clothes away. Sometimes it’s their own clothes into their own dressers. Sometimes it’s towels, or something of mine or Hubby’s that I have them carry to our room for me to put away later. They’re quite good at helping, and they’re learning to keep their drawers organized… or everything won’t fit!
3. Clean up their toys/pick up their rooms. I don’t make them do this all day every day. We frequently have toys left out, even when we go to bed sometimes. But I do ask them to keep things fairly organized (in labeled bins!) and mostly off the floor. If it gets too out of control, we spend a morning or evening cleaning EVERYONE’s room. But I help, not really facilitate. They know what to do.
4. Bring dishes from the table to the sink. I like having them help clear the table. That way, they can’t just get up whenever they feel like it. They tell me they’re full, and I say when they can get up, take their dishes to the sink, get their hands and faces clean, and go play.
5. Gather/Sort/Switch over laundry. I have them bring their dirty laundry to the laundry room, and often to sort it, help me start a load, help me switch it to the dryer (they’re a little short to get in my top-loading washer), and bring it out to be folded.
6. Clean the table/windows/doors. I let them loose with a roll of paper towels and the Method Glass Cleaner. Boom. It’s not as streak-free as when I do it myself, but they learn that their contribution is valuable at any level.
7. Sweep/pick up crumbs. My kids really like to sweep, and I have a handheld broom and dustpan for them to get everything up off the floor. We try to do this once a day (but then again, it depends on the day).
8. Weed, water, and harvest in the garden. They love this one, simply because they love being outside. We’re teaching them to recognize weeds, and the right way to pull them up (getting the WHOLE weed). They’re also learning when our vegetables are ready to pick – or to eat right off the plant, in the case of several tomatoes and cucumbers!
9. Pack lunch. This one I’m going to start soon. Once I’ve given a good idea of what a healthy lunch looks like, I’m going to have things semi-prepared for my kindergartener to grab a few things to put in her lunch box each morning. I’ll choose a bit, and let her choose her snack and a few add-ins. That way, she’s more excited about eating it because she picked it.
10. Help make the bed. I haven’t set a good precedent about this one, but I often find myself having them help, even if it isn’t first thing in the morning. Having lots of decorative pillows can make the job cumbersome, but pulling up sheets and blankets and putting the animals on TOP of the blankets is pretty darn easy. As is helping Mom or Dad strip the bed and change the sheets! My kids like the putting-on of the pillow cases the best!
What are some things your kids to around the house? Are there other chores I should start my kids on early?